Collins gives Sixers some hoops history

The coach had his team watch archival footage of the victory over Boston in the 1982 East finals.

Posted: May 24, 2012

Watching the video from the 76ers' Game 5 loss to Boston on Monday night in the Eastern Conference semifinals was going to be unpleasant - like Snooki, instead of Meryl Streep, trying to portray Margaret Thatcher.

So Sixers coach Doug Collins, hoping to soften the blow and change the negative vibe, went to the archives and also popped in footage from when the Sixers beat the Celtics in the 1982 conference finals.

The rivalry with Boston was at its best when Wilt Chamberlain traded elbows with Bill Russell in the 1960s, first as a Warrior and later as a Sixer. It had a strong resurgence when the Sixers and Celtics met for the conference championship for three consecutive seasons starting in 1980. Their current series, which resumes Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center, is the first time the rivals have met in the playoffs since 2002 and only the second time since 1985.

The Sixers had blown a three-games-to-one series lead against Boston in 1981 and were on the verge of doing the same the following year. They were beaten badly in Games 5 and 6, and faced the task of winning Game 7 at the Boston Garden - something no team had ever done.

Collins said his team watched the 10-minute documentary, Ghosts of Celtics Past, which dealt with the rivalry at that time. Collins' last active season was 1980-81, before knee injuries forced him to retire.

Celtics fans came to the 1982 Game 7 dressed as ghosts, as in the ghosts of Russell, Bob Cousy, and John Havlicek. They left it chanting famously "Beat L.A.," as the Sixers destroyed Boston, 120-106.

"It talked a lot about how the Philly fans had thought the team had let them down once again," Collins explained. "I let them listen to [coach] Billy Cunningham and how they had rallied around one another and how they won that game. We have that same opportunity. Let's give ourselves that chance. Let's go back to Boston for a Game 7 and let's see what we can do."

The Sixers' dilemmas of 1982 and 2012 aren't identical, but the sentiment is understandable.

"Sometimes I think it's good to go back and let guys see the history of the franchise," Collins said. "They're watching Julius [Erving] and Maurice Cheeks and Bobby Jones and Andrew Toney. They're seeing [Kevin] McHale and [Larry] Bird and [Robert] Parish and that group of [Celtics].

"It was good for our guys to see. I just want to let them know that if we win Game 6, we'll have that same opportunity to go back and maybe have that happen for us as well."

The Sixers, down by three games to two, are 4-0 after losses this postseason. They were an ordinary 16-13 in the regular season.

"We can't really take comfort that we've won four games after losses, because we don't know what's going to happen," Elton Brand said. "We need to bring our 'A' game. We're on the edge right now. We're fighting for our playoff lives, literally."

Point guard Jrue Holiday is leading the Sixers in scoring this postseason, at 15.5 points a game, but he was held without a point in the second half of the Game 5 loss as counterpart Rajon Rondo controlled the game.

"This is a crucial game for us and for them," Holiday said. "I remember last series. Maybe it was Doctor J or Coach [Collins] came in and said the fourth game, the one to [clinch] the series, is the hardest game to win. We're going to make it as hard as possible."

 Andre Iguodala is the closest thing the Sixers have to a star. He has had a few clutch moments in these playoffs, but his eight-point outing Monday was not among them.

So the Sixers might not have a star, but they do have several secondary options, and Iguodala wants to see more from them, especially after watching Brandon Bass torch the Sixers for 27 points in Game 5.

"You can make minor adjustments . . . but a lot of it has to do with will, and having second and third options has been key," Iguodala said. "Our second and third options haven't been as good as theirs, and it has shown a little bit."


Contact Ed Barkowitz at barkowe@phillynews.com.

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